German Shepherds, like all pets, can suffer from mild to severe separation anxiety, especially if they are used to spending a good deal of time with their human. When your dog is left alone, it can easily become distressed – signs of separation anxiety can begin before the owners even leave the home. These signs include nervousness, anxiety, drooling, and even trying to prevent their owners from leaving at all. While some dogs might seem depressed when they are about to be left alone or when they are already at home by themselves, other dogs might show this anxiety differently.
What are symptoms of separation anxiety?
Some of the main issues that dog owners face when they think about their German Shepherds facing anxiety issues include urinating or defecating when left alone, barking, howling, destructive chewing, digging, pacing, attempting escape (or succeeding in escaping the home), or just lying around in a depressive state.
If your dog exhibits any of these behaviors in the presence of their owners, chances are the behaviors are related to another problem and not a sign of separation anxiety. However, if your German Shepherd does any of these things when you are not home with him or her, there is a good chance that the reason they are engaging in these activities is due to separation anxiety and stress.
What are some reasons dogs develop separation anxiety?
Dogs develop separation anxiety for a variety of reasons. Some dogs do not take kindly to a change of routine. Often, changing residence can also be the reason behind the anxiety and stress. A change of guardian or adding a new person to the house can affect your dog, as well. If you are bringing a new baby or a new pet home, it is important to consider how your German Shepherd will feel about these events.
How can a dog’s separation anxiety be treated?
Before doing anything to help your German Shepherd’s separation anxiety, be sure that you consult your veterinarian to ensure that a more serious medical condition isn’t present. For example, if your dog is urinating or defecating around the house when you aren’t present, you will need to discuss this with your dog’s vet. Medications, boredom, excessive barking, incomplete house training, and teething can also be mistaken for separation anxiety.
Treatment for separation anxiety first depends on the cause of the anxiety. If it has to do with a new pet, then you might wish to keep your pets in separate rooms while you are out, so that they can adjust to one another with more ease.
For a more mild case of separation anxiety, try counterconditioning with your dog. This is done when you take a moment or thing that your dog dislikes, and provide your dog with something he or she loves – like a new toy or a favorite treat. By doing this, your dog will eventually learn to associate things with a more positive experience.
For more severe separation anxiety, you will need to work a bit harder! There are multiple steps to be taken for dealing with severe anxiety, such as giving your dog multiple opportunities per day to be alone, but not for long periods. By starting off for a few minutes and gradually working your way up to longer periods, your dog will hopefully become accustomed to spending more time alone. Next, you’ll want to try counterconditioning, as talked about above. If necessary, you can try taking your dog with you when you go out, or having someone come and sit with him or her during the day when you are not home, so that he or she will not be alone.
Consult your veterinarian if you need advice for separation anxiety. It is quite the common problem among dog owners, and many dogs have had a run in with separation anxiety before, so your veterinarian will be able to help you to figure out a proper treatment plan for your German Shepherd if nothing else seems to be helping.